Sonos Gets into Musical Activism and Advocacy

[A report from intern-in-residence Dorothy Lee. – AC]

Sonos is committed to promoting artistic freedom and protecting the future of music. While music is “at the heart” of their mission, they believe that more freedom of expression in music means more freedom for all other forms of expression.


In an open letter from Sonos CEO Patrick Spence, the company has announced that they are launching a new initiative called Listen Better to “support grassroots activist and advocacy work with small, strategic grants”. The initiative will be led by Deji Olukotun. Sonos has committed $1.5 million in unrestricted grants to fund groups all over the world who are working on the following key objectives:

  • Fight censorship and promote free expression for underserved artists
  • Defend digital rights and access to information for musicians and other artists
  • Provide space and tools so that musicians can be heard
  • Support music education in underserved communities
  • Inspire the next generation of artists, engineers and scientists

Sonos will be working with six organizations who will help to advise them and identify issues as they develop this program, and they have awarded an inaugural round of Listen Better grants to these organizations:

  • Access Now
  • Article 19
  • Creative Time
  • Freemuse
  • Future of Music Coalition
  • Index on Censorship

Sonos will also be working with Q-Tip on this program, an artist who has been making music to achieve social good for quite some time now and has been advising the company for several years. In addition to providing financial support, they also plan to use the company’s unique resources and talents in their future work on this program.

Sonos will also be launching a program in early 2018 that will allow eligible organizations from anywhere in the world to apply for a Sonos grant. Until then, any interested organization can contact Sonos here. For more information and to view the open letter from Sonos CEO Patrick Spence go here.

Here are some quotes from some of the initial grantees:

Creative Time:

“We’re excited and grateful to be one of the first Sonos Listen Better grantees. Sonos’ work to promote and protect the future of music aligns powerfully with Creative Time’s championing of artists voices and their biggest dreams.”

Alyssa Nitchun, Acting Executive Director of Creative Time

Index on Censorship:

“Some say silence is golden but at Index on Censorship – where we all too often see musicians attacked, interrogated or imprisoned – we stand proudly alongside Sonos in supporting those who strive to be heard.”

David Heinemann, Head of Fellowship

Article 19:

“For 30 years, ARTICLE 19 has worked to defend the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide, and we are encouraged by Sonos’ commitment to protecting artistic expression, which is increasingly critical in a new digital era where companies have become major actors in people’s ability to communicate, send and receive information, and express themselves. Music and artistic expression are powerful forces in challenging widespread oppression and marginalization — they have the ability to move people in ways that other mediums cannot. However, as a result of such, musicians and artists are often under attack by those who fear music’s potential and seek to close down civic space. In this climate, it is critical that we protect core human rights principles on openness, inclusiveness, and diversity. We welcome the launch of ‘Listen Better’ and look forward to working with Sonos in the protection of the right to freedom of expression.”

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of Article 19

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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